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Jul 9, 5:48 PM EDT

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A summer without swagger for Hollywood

NEW YORK (AP) - Hollywood's summer at the box office isn't just missing nearly 20 percent of last summer's revenue. It's lacking swagger.

Summer is the season for mega-budget, chest-thumping, globe-trotting monstrosities - films so big they lure droves of Americans with heavily promoted promises of shock and awe. But this season's blockbuster output has been curiously low on the summer's stock in trade: bigness.

Two months into the summer, there haven't been any $300 million grossers at the North American box office. The only movie to surpass $100 million in its weekend debut was "Transformers: Age of Extinction," and it did so by such a small smidge that some box-office watchers claimed it was artificially inflated. The Fourth of July, the customary launching pad for some of Hollywood's flashiest fireworks, was the worst July 4th weekend in at least a decade.

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Theme park CEO says job is about making memories

SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) - Standing in the shadows of a $30 million roller coaster that flips, drops and spins its riders, the head of the nation's fourth-biggest amusement park company points to another addition at Cedar Point he's proud of too - a shady spot to relax and munch on taffy and fudge.

It's not the most exciting part of the park along Lake Erie that boasts 17 roller coasters, but he thinks these little extras will keep families coming back.

Matt Ouimet has spent his first two years as chief executive of Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. making sure that the chain's 11 amusement parks across the country have plenty of attractions for all ages.

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Oil on 2-week slide even with Mideast turmoil

NEW YORK (AP) - The price of oil fell for the ninth straight day Wednesday as global supplies continue to flow despite unrest in the world's most important oil-producing region.

The prolonged drop could lead to lower gasoline prices for U.S. drivers in the weeks ahead.

In the Middle East, the insurgency in Iraq is far from resolved, but hasn't halted oil exports. The fighting now seems unlikely to spread to Iraq's major oil fields. Tensions between Israel and Hamas have escalated in the past week, but aren't threatening any major oil production.

On the supply side, Libyan crude exports appear poised to surge after an agreement between the government and local militias cleared the way for export terminals to open. And U.S. production continues to soar.

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Review: Unlimited e-book services offer plenty

SPANISH FORK, Utah (AP) - Two startups are trying to do for e-books what Netflix does for movies.

Oyster and Scribd let you read as many books as you want for a monthly price - $10 for Oyster and $9 for Scribd.

I was skeptical at first. I can never find enough time to read, and I'm picky about what I do read. I was worried about their limited book selections.

But I found plenty to read in no time, and I found myself reading more than I normally would. These services are great if you have a long weekend or a vacation coming up, or in my case three weeks of travels from California to New York.

Just don't think it'll be the same as walking into a library and finding just about any book you want.

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Want contracts? Work harder, women's org. CEO says

NEW YORK (AP) - Pamela Prince-Eason isn't letting women business owners off the hook - if they want more contracts with big corporations or the government, they have to work harder to get them than they do now.

The CEO of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, an organization that helps women-owned companies win those contracts, says it's not just corporations standing in women's way. These owners, even some of WBENC's members, need to be more aggressive.

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Alcoa helps lift market after 2 days of declines

NEW YORK (AP) - Corporate earnings season got off to a positive start Wednesday, helping lift the stock market after two days of declines.

The market opened higher and remained modestly higher throughout the day. Stocks climbed further after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its latest policy meeting in June.

The biggest gainer in the Standard & Poor's 500 index was Alcoa. The aluminum giant's earnings, which investors consider to be the official start of the quarterly corporate earnings season, came in well above Wall Street's expectations. Alcoa earned $138 million, or 18 cents a share, compared with analysts' estimates of 12 cents a share, according to FactSet. Alcoa rose 84 cents, or 6 percent, to $15.69.

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Fed split on signals for first rate increase

WASHINGTON (AP) - Federal Reserve officials had differing views in June on the best way to signal to financial markets when they might raise a key short-term interest rate. They were in broad agreement, however, that they will likely announce an end to their monthly bond buying program in October.

Minutes of the Fed's June 17-18 meeting released Wednesday showed officials split between those who wanted to communicate that the Fed remains concerned that inflation is rising too slowly and those who were worried that the economy might rebound faster than currently expected.

In the end, the Fed statement stuck to the current guidance that rates will likely remain low for a "considerable time" after the bond purchases end.

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US students in middle of pack on financial knowhow

WASHINGTON (AP) - In an increasingly global economy, just 1 in 10 teenagers around the world is able to make some key - but complex - financial decisions, including choosing among various loans or analyzing invoices and pay slips.

The picture is no better in the United States, where only 9.4 percent of 15-year-olds were able to answer the most difficult questions on an international test of their financial knowledge and skills. More than 1 in 6 U.S. students did not reach the baseline level of proficiency in financial literacy. At best, those students could make only simple decisions on everyday spending, said a report released Wednesday by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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PC shipment slump bottoms out

NEW YORK (AP) - A two-year slump in personal computer sales ended in the second quarter, helped by improving demand in developed markets like North America and Europe.

PC sales have fallen in recent years, hurt by surging demand for tablets and other mobile devices. Tough economic conditions around the world have also disrupted sales. But quarterly figures released Wednesday by the research firms Gartner Inc. and International Data Corp. show the global slump is easing.

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American Apparel to receive financing

NEW YORK (AP) - American Apparel Inc. announced late Wednesday it had reached a deal with investment firm Standard General to receive an investment of up to $25 million to bolster the clothing chain's finances. It will also mean a shake-up in the board.

The deal will help pay off a $10 million loan from investment firm Lion Capital, which made a formal demand for payment Monday. Lion Capital claimed that the chain defaulted under its credit agreement because it ousted its founder and CEO Dov Charney.

As part of the shake-up of the board, five of its seven members including Charney will voluntarily step down.

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By The Associated Press(equals)

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 79 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,985. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose nine points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,972. The Nasdaq composite rose 27 points, or 0.6 percent, to 4,419.

U.S. benchmark crude fell $1.11 Wednesday to close at $102.29 in New York. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell 59 cents to $108.47 in London. Wholesale gasoline fell 3.5 cents to close at $2.938 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3.4 cents to close at $4.17 per 1,000 cubic feet. Heating oil fell 0.3 cent to close at $2.871 a gallon.

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